Virginia Colleges Told Not to Ban Anti-Gay Discrimination

March 8, 2010

Virginia's attorney general, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, last week sent a letter to the leaders of public colleges and universities, telling them that they lack the authority to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation. In the letter, Cuccinelli says that only the General Assembly can ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, and that college policies doing so "create, at a minimum, confusion about the law and, at worst, a litany of instances in which the school's operation would need to change in order to come into conformance." The attorney general did not release the letter and his office declined to comment on it, but The Washington Post obtained a copy and wrote about it. The attorney general's stance could create problems for many colleges in Virginia because they do in fact include sexual orientation among characteristics on which they bar bias. And in many states with legislatures that have not barred such bias, public colleges have done so. Among the Virginia colleges with policies that run afoul of the attorney general's thinking are the College of William and Mary, George Mason University and the University of Virginia. Officials of all three colleges declined to discuss Cuccinelli's letter. The Virginia branch of the American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement saying that the attorney general was overstepping his authority and calling on the colleges to keep their anti-bias policies as they are.

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